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  Life   More Features  28 Mar 2019  Eco champions

Eco champions

Published : Mar 28, 2019, 12:08 am IST
Updated : Mar 28, 2019, 12:08 am IST

An increasing number of celebrities and conscientious citizens are undertaking green measures in a bid towards sustainable living.

Prakash Raj’s homes in Chennai and Hyderabad, lit up by solar power, rainwater harvesting, and interiors built with eco-friendly materials.
 Prakash Raj’s homes in Chennai and Hyderabad, lit up by solar power, rainwater harvesting, and interiors built with eco-friendly materials.

The trend of ecological responsibility is fast catching up among the elite set as several public figures are setting about remodeling their homes to keep the planet healthy. Celebrities from Dia Mirza to Gul Panag and Prakash Raj have gone the extra mile to create green houses that will inspire their fans to do the same.

Take the case of actress Dia Mirza, whose home is a reflection of who she is. Born and brought up in Hyderabad amidst green surroundings, she credits her parents for incorporating the love-of-nature in her. One of the many steps Dia has taken to go green includes replacing all plastic containers at her home with glass and ceramic jars.

“I have made every effort to make our home and co-operative housing as eco-friendly as possible. We segregate waste, do composting, have water gauge automated systems to avoid tank overflows, and have banned plastic decorations for events.

Even our watchmen and society staff have steel cups so they don’t buy tea in plastic cups. And of course, we don’t use plastic bags,” says eco champion Dia, adding, “I have also planted indigenous plants that attract bio diversity, so my windows provide a natural haven, with birds, butterflies and bees providing a sense of peace, calm and beauty.”

Meanwhile, Gul Panag’s home near Pune is registered under Small Versatile Affordable GRIHA system (SVAGRIHA) — where a rainwater harvesting system and solar panels meet the daily water and power needs. Along with this, a large double glazed window eliminates the need for air-conditioning inside the home.

Similarly, actor Prakash Raj utilised sustainable principles while building his second home, which was not just easy on the earth, but on his conscience too. “Building an eco-friendly house is not as difficult as some people assume. It has solar power, harnesses rainwater, and the interiors are built entirely with eco-friendly materials. I want my children to respect nature,” says the actor.

It’s not just the stars who are going green. Responsible citizens like Bamboo House India’s Prashant Lingam and Aruna Kappagantula, Icrisat’s ex-scientist Murali Sharma, architect and interior designer Kalpana Ramesh and Our Sacred Space founder Nayantara Nandakumar are all passionate about preserving the planet, with their homes boasting some of the finest eco-credentials.

“My current home is an old construction, so I could not do much about it. But when I had the opportunity to do up my office, we made sure it’s off the grid — right from the flooring, roof, walls, furniture, tiles and wash basins — everything is either eco-friendly or recycled. We have solar panels and rain water harvesting too. And we use our office as a demonstration facility,” says Prashant Lingam, the founder of Bamboo House India.

So what does the term ‘sustainable homes’ really mean? As Kalpana Loganathan explains, a lot goes into an eco-friendly home, right from insulation to energy supply, appliances to the floor plan layout. Kalpana and Ramesh Loganathan’s new home will be completely off the grid. “It’s a dream house — electricity, water, cooling tunnels — everything is self sustainable. We even want to do bio gas for cooking with garbage and sewage recycling,” says Kalpana, an interior designer and architect, who is also engaged in environmental issues.

Close to nature

Environmental engineer Nayantara Nandakumar exposes the simple logic behind ecological sustainability, sustainable lifestyles and architecture. “At Our Sacred Space Dharur, we run the house on solar power. Water is from the borewell. We have septic tanks and recycle grey water. We avoid bringing in any plastic, and are moving towards zero waste. We use ash and soapnut based dishwashing mixtures,” she says, explaining some of the measures in place.

Nayantara adds, “The vernacular architecture of the region is exquisite but fast vanishing. In an effort to keep alive and popularise local craftsmanship, the meditation hall, Padmam, has been made with wooden beams and rafters covered by slabs of slate, the traditional roof in the area. It remains cool and comfortable. There is abundant ventilation and air circulation. A practical, hands-on working intelligence along with age old building techniques is used by our local masons and workers. In Dharur village, most home owners work alongside a mason to build their homes, which is an enriching experience in itself. And while you may see some sunlight in the gaps between the slabs, it is rain proof.”

Similarly, when scientist Murali Sharma retired from Icrisat, he wanted to ensure that he and his family lived a life as close to nature as possible. The result is a home that they retrofitted for sustainability. “We conserve and recycle water. Used water goes into two soak pits to enrich the ground water table. Kitchen waste, leaf litter and anything that decomposes is converted to compost,” he explains.

Even builders like Total Environment Homes are increasingly courting environmentally-minded consumers by offering features and using building techniques that would have been considered a novelty a few years ago. The Meadow Dance is designed around the unique concept of earth sheltered homes. A blanket of earth keeps these homes relatively cool in summer and warm in winter. The landscaped earth cover also reduces rainwater run-off. Each home has a courtyard, is built with natural materials, and is individually customisable.

Tags: dia mirza, prakash raj, gul panag